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Outrage after Twitter suspends several US journalists who reported on Musk – live | US politics


Twitter: suspended accounts ‘were manually reviewed’

Twitter insisted on Friday that the company “manually reviewed” every account it suspended last night, ranging from prominent journalists from the New York Times, CNN and Washington Post, and a number of popular liberal commentators.

Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, made the claim in an email to Reuters, stating the manual review was on “any and all accounts” it said violated its new privacy policy by posting links to a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Elon Musk‘s private jet using information in the public domain.

Elon Musk.
Elon Musk. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Musk, formerly the world’s richest man, who bought the social media platform for $44bn earlier this year, accused the journalists of posting “assassination coordinates” by publicizing the ElonJet account, which was suspended earlier.

“Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” Musk tweeted.

He did clarify how he thought they had done so. And he hung up on a Twitter Spaces audio chat after clashing with some of the journalists he banned.

The suspension of the accounts late Thursday has prompted outrage on both sides of the Atlantic about Musk’s curbing of press freedoms.

Also suspended were accounts run by liberal commentators Keith Olbermann and Aaron Rupar.

Irwin’s letter to Reuters offered little by way of further explanation.

“I understand that the focus seems to be mainly on journalist accounts but we applied the policy equally to journalists and non-journalist accounts today,” she wrote.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the suspensions, which included its technology reporter Drew Harwell, were instigated at the “direction of Ella”.

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Key events

Interim summary

Time to take stock of developments midway through Friday.

There’s a growing global backlash against Elon Musk for suspending the accounts of several prominent journalists from Twitter. European leaders are threatening sanctions, while Musk’s company insists it only acted after a careful manual review.

Here’s what else we’ve been following:

  • Joe Biden has been speaking at a National Guard center in Delaware, touting the Pact Act that supports veterans’ healthcare, and getting emotional speaking about his late son Beau, a former Guard major.

  • The bipartisan House committee investigating Donald Trump’s January 6 insurrection is making final preparations ahead of Monday’s last public hearing, the publication of its report and civil and criminal referrals for certain individuals possibly including Trump.

  • Senators have been discussing a long-term, $1.7tn package to keep the government funded for another year. Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer wants the Electoral Count Act included to preserve the integrity of future elections.

Biden touts veterans’ health law in Delaware

Joe Biden is at a town hall for veterans in New Castle, Delaware, choking with emotion when talking about his late son Beau, a former National Guard major for whom the center he was speaking at is named.

The president kept his comments tightly focused on the expansion of benefits and services for veterans resulting from the Pact Act, introducing a second world war pilot, and talking of the need to support and improve the physical and mental health of retired military members.

Joe Biden speaks with Ray Firmani, a 101-year-old second world war pilot, in New Castle, Delaware, on Friday.
Joe Biden speaks with Ray Firmani, a 101-year-old second world war pilot, in New Castle, Delaware, on Friday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The law helps veterans get screened for exposure to toxins, such as agent orange, which was used for deforestation during the Vietnam War; and burn pits, where poisonous trash was destroyed on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Biden said:

The Pact Act was the first step of being sure that we leave no-one behind.

We also need to pass the bipartisan government funding bill so we can deliver on the act’s promise.

It was a more somber, subdued delivery from Biden as he delivered anecdotes about military families who have struggled to get care, and remembered his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Joe Biden is about to speak in Delaware. You can follow his comments live here:

Happening Now: President Biden participates in a town hall with veterans and discusses the historic expansion of benefits in the PACT Act. https://t.co/PlsF9hwHrG

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 16, 2022

Happy Wright Brothers Day everyone, for tomorrow! The White House has issued a proclamation to commemorate the first powered fight, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on 17 December, 1903.

“On Wright Brothers Day, we celebrate the ingenuity and perseverance of Orville and Wilbur Wright, whose aircraft expanded the limits of human discovery and lifted this nation to new heights,” the statement, signed by Joe Biden, says.

“When their Wright Flyer finally took to the skies… they launched the future of aviation and helped define the American spirit: bold, daring, innovative, and always asking what is next”.

On Dec. 17 at 9 a.m., Wright Brothers National Memorial will celebrate the accomplishments of Wilbur and Orville Wright on the 119th anniversary of their first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight. Park entrance fees are waived on this special day. https://t.co/qWYYHVntxS pic.twitter.com/MnMbwBxVEO

— Wright Brothers National Memorial (@WrightBrosNPS) December 5, 2022

Never missing an opportunity to brag, the White House is using the occasion to tout some of its own achievements.

“[The] Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is investing $25bn to renovate airport terminals; upgrade air traffic control facilities; and improve runways, taxiways, and other vital infrastructure that make flying easier and more secure,” it says.

“We have pushed airlines to rebook travelers’ tickets for free when flights are significantly delayed or canceled, and to disclose fees, like for checked baggage, clearly and up front. And we are exploring new technologies that can decrease carbon emissions coming from airplanes.”

Read the White House proclamation here.

January 6 panel preparing to release final report, referrals

It’s the final countdown for the bipartisan House committee investigating Donald Trump’s January 6 insurrection as it prepares for its last public hearing and report publication next week. Also coming soon: criminal referrals.

The panel has set a 1pm date on Monday for a “business meeting” at which it will make finishing touches to its report and recommendations for legislative changes, and prepare to announce much-anticipated referrals for civil and criminal charges, which many expect to include Trump himself and a number of close allies.

But it is unclear if the final report’s release will also come on Monday. Bloomberg’s congressional correspondent Billy House says there’s doubt, as some important discussions still need to take place.

Release of the full J6 report on Monday is not a settled matter, it turns out. Discussions on what will be released as the committee meets on Monday publicly still under way.

— Billy House (@HouseInSession) December 15, 2022

The Guardian reported last month there was something of a rift on the panel, with members split over focusing on Trump and the efforts he made to cling on to power after losing the 2020 election; and issues such as intelligence failures by the FBI and others that allowed Trump’s mob of supporters to easily overrun law enforcement defending the Capitol on 6 January 2021.

Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the panel, urged observers this week to “stay tuned” as he refused to give clues about referrals or conclusions. “We’re going with what we think are the strongest arguments,” he said, according to the New York Times.

The referrals could follow two tracks, the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reported last week: citations for things that Congress can request prosecution by statute, such as perjury or witness tampering, or wider-ranging recommendations such as making the case that Trump obstructed an official proceeding on 6 January.

The select committee held its first meeting in July 2021.

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Joe Biden is in Delaware, where he’s meeting with veterans at a National Guard facility named for his late son. The president is urging them to take advantage of new healthcare opportunities under legislation he signed in August.

Biden is scheduled to make public remarks at noon. We don’t know if he’ll restrict his comments only to the Pact Act, a law that helps veterans get screened for exposure to toxins, and which Senate Republicans famously blocked earlier this year in a political stunt, before relenting.

The toxins include agent orange, which was used for deforestation during the Vietnam War, and burn pits, where trash was destroyed on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Associated Press, the Biden administration has been hosting scores of events around the country to draw attention to the new benefits. More than 730,000 veterans have already received screenings, the White House says.

Beau Biden, the president’s elder son, served as a major in the Delaware National Guard. He died of brain cancer in 2015, and the president has suggested that exposure to burn pits on his base in Iraq may have been the cause.

Hundreds of thousands of railroad jobs disappeared in the US over the last 50 years, while railroad carriers made record profits. After their recent strike was blocked, workers are fighting back. Michael Sainato reports:

Railroad workers and unions are ramping up pressure on the US Congress and Joe Biden to address poor working conditions in the wake of the recent move to block a strike when Congress voted to impose a contract agreement.

Workers and labor activists in America have criticized that action for undermining the collective bargaining process in the US and workers’ right to strike.

Twelve labor unions representing about 115,000 railroad workers across the US had been negotiating with railway carriers since 2019 on a new union contract. By September the prospect of a strike threatened to shut down down the US railroads and hit the US economy to an estimated $2bn a day. That eventually prompted Congress – backed by the president – to impose the settlement.

“You always knew that this was the culmination of the process, you knew that Congress was going to push you back to work, you just didn’t know when and under what conditions that you’d be put back to work,” said Ross Grooters, a locomotive engineer based in Iowa and co-chair of Railroad Workers United.

Railroad workers had pushed for paid sick days to provide relief for grueling schedules caused by of labor cuts, with many workers on call 24/7 every day of the year, often having to work while sick or forgo doctor’s appointments because of their scheduling demands and strict disciplinary policies around attendance.

As conditions have worsened, railroad carriers have made record profits and spent billions of dollars on stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders. Meanwhile, US railroad jobs have declined significantly in recent years, from 1m in the 1950s to fewer than 150,000 in 2022, with drastic recent losses as the industry experienced a reduction of 40,000 workers between November 2018 and December 2020.

Now the imposed contract provides just one extra day of personal time off, with no days allotted for illnesses, and three days a year for doctor appointments with stipulations.

Read the full story:

Protecting the integrity of elections, and preventing another January 6-style insurrection, are up for discussion Friday as senators weigh an omnibus funding package to keep the government funded for another year.

The chamber passed a short-term deal late on Thursday to extend funding until 23 December, which Joe Biden will approve today after the House approved the same measure the day before.

Chuck Schumer.
Chuck Schumer. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

It provides breathing space for a bipartisan team negotiating the longer-term deal, which Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer wants to see include the Electoral Count Act.

Among other measures, the law would clarify the role of the vice-president in the certification of general election results. The 2021 riot by Donald Trump supporters was sparked, at least in part, by the outgoing president’s false claim that his vice-president Mike Pence could refuse to certify Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, and keep him in office.

“I expect an omnibus will contain priorities both sides want to see passed into law, including more funding for Ukraine and the Electoral Count Act, which my colleagues in the Rules Committee have done great work on. It will be great to get that done,” Schumer told reporters.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, has said he could support a omnibus bill, which will come in around $1.7tn, as long as it doesn’t contain any “poison pills”.

It would finance day-to-day operations of government agencies for the current fiscal year that began 1 October. Federal spending on programs such as social security and Medicare is not part of the annual appropriations process and is not included in the package.

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While it’s been quiet from politicians in the US (so far) over Elon Musk’s suspension of prominent journalists’ accounts from Twitter, European leaders are not holding back, and are threatening sanctions against the social media giant.

“News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying,” Věra Jourová, vice-president of the European Commission tweeted.

“EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.”

News about arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter is worrying. EU’s Digital Services Act requires respect of media freedom and fundamental rights. This is reinforced under our #MediaFreedomAct. @elonmusk should be aware of that. There are red lines. And sanctions, soon.

— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) December 16, 2022

She did not specify what the sanctions could entail.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) compels companies using serving European web users to meet strict regulations in tackling manipulative algorithms, disinformation and other cyber harm.

Meanwhile, France’s industry minister Roland Lescure tweeted on Friday he would mothball his account.

“Following the suspension of journalists’ accounts by @elonmusk, I am suspending all activity on @Twitter until further notice”, he wrote.

Suite à la suspension de comptes de journalistes par @elonmusk, je suspends toute activité sur @Twitter jusqu’à nouvel ordre.

— Roland Lescure (@RolandLescure) December 16, 2022

Twitter: suspended accounts ‘were manually reviewed’

Twitter insisted on Friday that the company “manually reviewed” every account it suspended last night, ranging from prominent journalists from the New York Times, CNN and Washington Post, and a number of popular liberal commentators.

Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, made the claim in an email to Reuters, stating the manual review was on “any and all accounts” it said violated its new privacy policy by posting links to a Twitter account called ElonJet, which tracked Elon Musk‘s private jet using information in the public domain.

Elon Musk.
Elon Musk. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Musk, formerly the world’s richest man, who bought the social media platform for $44bn earlier this year, accused the journalists of posting “assassination coordinates” by publicizing the ElonJet account, which was suspended earlier.

“Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not,” Musk tweeted.

He did clarify how he thought they had done so. And he hung up on a Twitter Spaces audio chat after clashing with some of the journalists he banned.

The suspension of the accounts late Thursday has prompted outrage on both sides of the Atlantic about Musk’s curbing of press freedoms.

Also suspended were accounts run by liberal commentators Keith Olbermann and Aaron Rupar.

Irwin’s letter to Reuters offered little by way of further explanation.

“I understand that the focus seems to be mainly on journalist accounts but we applied the policy equally to journalists and non-journalist accounts today,” she wrote.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the suspensions, which included its technology reporter Drew Harwell, were instigated at the “direction of Ella”.

Read more:

Good morning and happy Friday to all politics blog readers! After Elon Musk’s purge of several prominent US journalists’ Twitter accounts, the EU was quick to react, promising sanctions against the social media giant.

“We have a problem @Twitter,” the German foreign ministry tweeted, while a raft of other senior European officials are expressing their concern at curbed press freedoms.

Media outlets this side of the Atlantic are similarly outraged, and we’re waiting to see what US politicians have to say about it all. We’ll bring you reaction and developments through the day.

Here’s what else we’re watching on what’s shaping up to be a busy, and consequential day:

  • Senators continue their discussions on an omnibus deal to keep the government funded for the next year after passing a week-long stopgap measure last night. Democrats want to include the Electoral Count Act, seeking to prevent another January 6-style insurrection.

  • The House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack by followers of Donald Trump are wrapping up their business ahead of Monday’s final public hearing, but it’s unclear whether we’ll see the full report on that day.

  • Joe Biden will meet veterans to talk about benefits and services resulting from the Pact Act during a town hall meeting at a National Guard center in Delaware named for the president’s late son Beau. He’ll speak at 12pm.

  • The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will talk about international affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace thinktank in Washington DC.





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